by Debayudh Chatterjee, Graduate Assistant, HPRC
Meet Mouna Benbouazza; she graduated with Master of Arts in French from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2020. Her last job was overseeing communications at an international think tank in Brussels. As the capital of the European Union, Brussels is a crucial seat of international discussions on the environment. Mouna worked on important issues like climate change, trade cooperation and technology. The expertise called for these tasks were research aptitude, close analysis, and writing, which her master’s program honed. Her favorite part of her job? Writing speeches.
Mouna was born and raised in Rabat, the capital city of Morocco. Along with her sister she attended a French school. In the weekends, among other things, she visited museums with her parents. When she was ten, her family moved to Belgium. Although it not seamless to migrate into another climate and culture, Mouna believes that living in a different country enriched her in several ways. From a young age, she was fascinated by how other cultures could be accessed through languages. This passion for languages led her to take up Germanic languages and literatures for in college. When she arrived in the United States to do a masters in her native language, French, she was thrilled at the opportunity to teach French and promote Francophone studies. Mouna understood that her knack for languages would open up doors to professions pertaining to international affairs.
Mouna fondly recalls her days at the University of Illinois. She remembers how the classes thoroughly emphasized on teaching the tools and methodology of research along with the ability to synthesize it. Additionally, speaking and exposing viewpoints in seminars was instrumental in imparting the skill of contributing to a discussion in a professional setting and interacting with colleagues. The rigorous writing requirements of her course prepared her for the demands of her workplace. She also learned to manage her time and work in a fast-paced environment, as well as other important soft skills. Outside the classroom, she learned to network and collaborate with people from other disciplines. UIUC to her was a closely knit family, a home away from home.
Mouna has been learning Mandarin for more than a year to expand her linguistic abilities. She advises current students to diversify their experiences within and beyond the campus as much as is consistent with self-care. Meeting new people and trying out new things are the best ways to find out what one is really good at. She also urges recent graduates to apply without hesitation to jobs that aren’t an exact fit for their profile and experience, because that is how we grow: by encountering the unfamiliar!